How to spot a crisis pregnancy center (before you walk in the door)
A crisis pregnancy center (CPC) is a anti-choice organization that masquerades as women's health clinics. These clinics (also called pregnancy care centers) are explicitly designed to talk people seeking abortion care out of it through strategies such as using religious coercion, shaming you for having sex in the first place, telling you absolute lies about abortion (it ruins your fertility, it gives you breast cancer, it will destroy your mental health), about the reality of abortion in your state, specifically that however far along you are, it's too late to get one, and even about what your pregnancy looks like. That free ultrasound they offer? It's standard practice at CPCs to tell a patient that she's further along in pregnancy than she actually is, thus making abortion impossible.
Here is another thing about CPCs- it's pretty easy to end up in one if you don't know what to look for, especially if you're desperate and don't have access to accurate information. Let's take a look at two examples of CPC websites to clarify what to look for, so you can get the health care information you deserve.
Springfield Pregnancy Care Center (Springfield, MA)
Your first step in assessing whether or not a place is going to give you any legitimate medical information or just try to talk you out of having an abortion is to look at the website. You should also check it on sites like Yelp, where you'll be able to get some perspective from actual users about their experiences. (Check out the Yelp page for Ithaca Pregnancy Center for an example.)
There's a lot of stuff on Springfield Pregnancy Care Center site to clue you in that something is up. First, in the upper right hand corner, there's the Heartbeat International Affiliate logo. Heartbeat International is a network of Christian anti-choice pregnancy centers - you can find a map of them at their website. Below the logo, it also says that SPCC is a "life affirming center." If that set off alarm bells for you, it should, and when that happens, go with your gut - if you think something is off, it probably is.
SPCC also offers abstinence only education (as opposed to information about birth control) and "spiritual support." If you click on the "About Us" tab, you'll find the following statement at the bottom of that page: We are not a medical facility. We do not perform or refer for abortions, but we do provide abortion information. An example of the abortion information you can expect to get at SPCC is "POST-ABORTION SUPPORT: Healing Bible study with an RN Instructor." It doesn't get further away from supplying medical information that's based on science than this, but you might not notice it if you didn't look that far. Part of the game of CPCs is to bury information or code it, relying on the emotional state (panic, fear, desperation) of the person looking for information. All over that main page are the words "help," "assistance," "guidance," "compassion," and "free," and while there's also the promise to refer someone to medical and community resources, the information elsewhere on the site makes it pretty clear than one of those resources are going to help one in obtaining an abortion.
Cornerstone (Elyria, OH)
It might take a second of looking at Cornerstone's logo to realize that it's a cross, which is the first indication that someone's up. Cornerstone is craftier than SPCC in its language, you have to do some digging and also be aware of what you're looking at to detect that it's a CPC. The site looks modern and clean, unlike SPCC's site, and the word "empower" is right there. That could lead you to think that what's happening at Cornerstone is the dissemination of actual medical information, but nope. There are two confirmations that Cornerstone is a CPC. If you click on the "Options" tab, you'll see that "abortion" is in the drop down menu, which might make you think, "Great! They're telling me about abortion! It's fine!" The information in that section is supplied by the Elliot Institute, an anti-choice advocacy group (that's not hidden, it cites the institute at the bottom of the page, but most people don't know that's what Elliot is, unless they look it up). There's the typical litany of false information about abortion - life threatening, infertility, etc.
If that wasn't enough to give it away, click on the "adoption" section to learn that Cornerstone want to pray "with you and for you," and there's scripture on that same page. It's not a coincidence that these biblical verses can also be found on signs held by anti-choice protesters outside legitimate women health clinics.
Finally, a t the top and bottom of the page is a clickable link to "abortion pill reversal." There's no scientific evidence that the abortion pill is reversible, and the fact that this is the only visible information about abortion on the main page (again, you'd have to clinic on "Options" in order to find more) is a sure fire indication that Cornerstone isn't interested in presenting people with correct information they can use to make the best decisions for themselves, their bodies and their futures.
Women Help Women believes you should have access to facts. Medical abortion, via the abortion pill or misoprostol, is safe and effective to do on your own (also known as self-managed abortion), at home or in a place where you feel secure. The abortion pill could be the right option for you if you're in early pregnancy (before 10 weeks). You can learn how medical abortion works, how to get the pills, what to expect, and more at Women Help Women's website.